In Fallujah, Iraq, we see a unit of American soldiers cross the rocky, war-and-poverty ravaged terrain. U.S. sniper Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) watches over the team from atop a nearby building.
The only sound is the wind.
We watch through Chris’s scope as a car goes into an alley. After a few minutes, an Al-Qaeda soldier steps out, armed with a rocket propelled grenade (RPG). Chris takes out the man before he even has time to raise the weapon, and he drops to the ground.
All seems quiet, until a boy from across the street walks to the body. The boy slowly crouches down and takes the RPG. “Don’t do it,” Chris whispers. “Put that down.”
The boy slowly lifts it up and adjusts the weapon over his shoulder. Chris’s heart races. If the boy makes one more move, Chris must take the shot. Will he have to kill another child?
This is the tension that the beautifully shot character study “American Sniper” gives the viewer.
The movie is topical to say the least, with different viewpoints ranging from “pro-war propaganda” to “patriotic epic.” I don’t see that. To me, “American Sniper” is a brilliant character study of Chris Kyle, who is neither hero nor villain. He is just a soldier, doing his job.
This movie covers his childhood, four tours in the Army and his marriage troubles.
Mr. Bradley portrays the war and his marriage as two different worlds. In Chris’s tours of duty, he laughs, jokes around with his fellow soldiers and cares for them like a brother. When he arrives back home, however, he is unable to function, sometimes due to his Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. He tells his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), that he needs to get back into the Army because the “savages” are killing his men, and he regrets they are dying every minute he is home. He jumps at the slightest sound that reminds him of the war, from a drill to a dog. He looks at everyone with the gaze reminiscent of the thousand-yard stare from another war movie, Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” and it gets to a point where he even seems like a stranger to Taya.
Along with Mr. Bradley’s fine acting, the movie has great camera work and highly realistic settings. Everything is tight, and the movie has a certain crispness to it.
The movie does have its problems, however. There is a scene in which a doll is used as a substitute for a baby, which is so blatantly obvious it made me chuckle. There is also some awkward scriptwriting. In once scene, Chris calls his wife a “horny pregger,” which I don’t think any woman would find flattering.
A Syrian sniper named Mustafa, made to look like an “evil” version of Chris, is poorly drawn, and there are doubts as to whether Mustafa is even real. Then there is the fact that during the war, Chris and his team act like they are from a “Modern Warfare” video game, burly white dudes (and one black guy) creating mayhem.
After the movie, I met a veteran who saw it the same time I did, and he agreed with my view of the movie, adding how tragic that soldiers in real life suffered the same way that Chris is, or worse. I can only hope they get the treatment they deserve.
Josh Wilson is a senior at Evanston Township High School